Band/Artist Profile

Before There Was Bar Italia, There Was Double Virgo

Bar Italia began by accident. The members were all living in one building in Peckham, England in 2019. Jezmi Tarik Fehmi and Sam Fenton lived downstairs in a single shared apartment, making music as Double Virgo. Meanwhile, Nina Cristante lived upstairs, teaching pilates. 

The name Double Virgo is self-referential, as Fehmi and Fenton share the same star sign. Their sound is rhythmic, emotive and dark. 

Bar Italia formed later on, first signing to Dean Blunt’s music label Word Music before recently switching over to Matador Records to release their new project “The Twits.”

I was lucky enough to see Bar Italia play at Motorco Music Hall last March. Fehmi, Fenton and Cristante seemed to revel in their mysterious presence. They came on stage thirty minutes past nine p.m., played for strictly 50 minutes without pause and then left abruptly with a briefly whispered thank you to the crowd, only stopping to pass the set list off to a person standing near the front of the stage.

This secretive nature, I later found out, is something Bar Italia has very carefully cultivated for their public image. The band was very hesitant to give interviews before recently. Their social media presence is nearly nonexistent. Only with the start of their latest ten-week tour did Bar Italia start to open up. 

To Crack Magazine, Cristante quotes, “I think there is something gained in not talking, understanding who you are, so that when you get there you are creative and coherent and you’ve got something to say.”

I believe there is some merit to that. Whether Bar Italia has something to say remains another question entirely. 

The experience of listening to their music is mysterious, sultry and yet all the same, alluring. All three of their voices are entirely different and give the impression of continuously being in conversation with each other to form interesting dramatic narratives. Lyrics of Bar Italia songs shape stories of bad relationships and dissatisfaction with inequal social dynamics. They somehow effectively combine the sounds of indie rock, shoegaze and britpop together in a clever mix that leaves a lasting impression on the listener. 

Still, there is an air of coolness and detachment in their sound. I think this stylized disinterest is exactly what makes everyone interested, set on figuring out the mystery, wading through the cryptic web of worldbuilding.

This was evident in their performance at Motorco. They came, they played and they left. The audience was either confused or starstruck, I couldn’t tell. A few concert-goers, myself included, knew the lyrics to the songs, but the rest stood back in what I could only interpret as apprehension.

It seems that the members of Bar Italia are apprehensive, too. About fame, about what comes with fame and about interacting with their audience. 

They are even apprehensive about music, with Fehmi proudly claiming to not love it.

“I cannot honestly say I like anyone’s music. I don’t even like our music,” he said, carrying that same nonchalant attitude that seeps out from each Bar Italia track.

However, I can’t seem to get enough. And it’s Double Virgo’s discography that I return to time and time again. 

Whereas Bar Italia feels untouchable, unenthused with itself, delightfully uncaring, Double Virgo has an edge of authenticity that I find endearing. It does have the vibe of two guys alone in an apartment, messing around, being creative. There’s also something more real, with many lyrics embodying a sense of yearning. 

Tracks like “Kicked Out By Seven” are sweet and sad. Fehmi sings, “Wondering what you said / Why can’t you say it to me?” In the next verse, Fenton follows up, “Your silence really says it all / So run away.”

Unlike Bar Italia’s tongue-in-cheek irony and lyrics about unhappy relationships, Fehmi and Fenton have created something more straightforward in their expression of desire. 

This same lovelorn sentiment is expressed again on “Burning Bridges,” as Fehmi croons, “You make me wanna scream when you look like that /You make me wanna dream and I don’t do so much of that.”

For a band whose frontman claims to not love music, Fehmi and Fenton have poured something strange and interesting into Double Virgo. 

It’s almost like when people claim to not care, but deep down inside, all they want to do is scream and shout about how they really feel. They’re like the emotionally unavailable partners of the music industry. We can fix them, scream the fans. 

Together, Fehmi and Fenton have made a project that sounds like it would come on late at night driving around with your friends in the car, the static humming, the windows down, the soft air ruffling through your fingertips. And how can anyone who truly hates music do that? 

Double Virgo’s Top Tracks

  1. “Rear Window Rider”
  2. “No Smoking in the Hallway”
  3. “Centaurella 4”
  4. “Sit Down and Behave’Sit Down and Behave”
  5. “Burning Bridges”

By Wordgirl

Between her time making playlists for future DJ sets, Wordgirl loves to watch movies and read books. You can find her hanging out with her cat, Mouse, and playing music too loud in her headphones.